Louie Louie Coffee Roasters available
Date Posted:7 February 2016
I recently had a chance to sit down with Ben from Louie Louie Coffee Roasters in Brisbane to chat about their journey into specialty coffee so far, and of course got to sample a bit of the merchandise.
What got you started in the coffee industry?
I was working in cafe’s when I was travelling and studying Business Marketing at university, then got a job at an HR company and worked there for about three months before realising I couldn’t do the cubicle office nine to five thing, and decided to progress back into coffee. At that point, I got a job with a Melbourne based coffee company as a rep in Brisbane. I worked for those guys for about eighteen months, really enjoyed the work, really enjoyed being back in the coffee industry, and also realised there was an opportunity to get into coffee production myself. I decided to leave the repping job, and went into partnership and bought my first roaster. I got the roaster about six weeks after leaving the repping job. That was about six years ago.
Were there other guys doing small batch roasting in Brisbane at that time?
Not really at that stage, there were a handful I think. Cup Coffee Roasters [edit: now Coffee Supreme] were just coming into their own at that point, they were the first I am aware of. Otherwise it was the bigger guys like Di Bella and Merlo and a few of the Melbourne guys. Campos were owning the specialty niche market. In terms of smaller guys, there just weren’t too many around. It was early days in Brisbane from a specialty coffee point of view. It was a scene that was just emerging.
You were probably comparing the Brisbane scene to Melbourne and they were streets ahead?
Absolutely. We saw the way Brisbane was growing and its cafe culture that was coming. We got the roaster with no concept of roasting whatsoever, and managed to butcher the next eighteen months’ worth of beans [laughs], just learning the art and cutting our teeth. We were renting a place at Spring Hill, literally roasting underneath a Queenslander house. I don’t think the neighbours were sure if we were running a drug lab, but at least the smell wasn’t too bad so I don’t think we pissed too many of them off [laughs again].
Even now there seems to be a lot of secrecy about roasting, going back six years how did you figure that stuff out?
There was a lot of trial and error. We had friends working in cafes around the city, so whenever we roasted we would give out samples to those guys to see what they thought and get feedback.
When you started out roasting, were you roasting specialty grade beans straight away? Did you know what that meant then?
From working as a rep we knew what area of the market we wanted to get into, but the hardest part six years ago was being able to get our hands on green beans. Back then you could often only get green bean by the pallet load, which was too much for us. We needed small amounts so we could roast and try out things and learn. I remember when we did get hold of green beans; our very first order was bags of Costa Rican, Ethiopian and a Honduran. The first bag we opened was the Costa Rican, and we roasted something like 15 or 20 small batches out of that. Every batch we did we just couldn’t figure out what was happening, as all the beans were ending up with this really horrible metallic taste. We ended up sending a sample of the green beans over to a guy we knew roasting out of Wellington NZ to check them out. Turns out the bag had become contaminated by diesel fuel at some stage during its transportation to Australia which was why it tasted so horrible. It had never occurred to us there was something wrong with the green beans, it was our first bag and we didn’t know what we were doing and thought it was something we were doing wrong with the roasting. It improved from there!
Six years later, do you think there is more awareness in Brisbane now amongst coffee drinkers as to what specialty coffee is versus what they get elsewhere?
Absolutely. The reviews coming out of Brisbane in the last two or three years reflect that, Brisbane has really emerged in that time. Roasters up here are winning all sorts of awards. I do think it’s a different coffee that we do up here; it has a different flavour compared to our southern colleagues. The industry has come a long way in a short period of time, and alternative brewing methods are becoming more popular. The hard thing is that there are so many coffee shops and you can get a coffee anywhere, but you can’t get a good one everywhere.
What coffee are you enjoying drinking yourself at the moment?
For brewing methods I like a pour over, either a V60 or Chemex. As for the coffee, I’m really enjoying our Cuban Serrano at the moment. It’s really smooth and straight down the middle, although we just got hold of a Brazilian which is similar and even more chocolatey and smooth. It’s a nicely balanced coffee.
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